Top critical review
18 people found this helpful
Entertaining but failed to fulfil its potential
on 7 June 2012
I picked this up on the recommendation of a friend. They were of the opinion that I would LOVE this given that (and I'm not ruining anything here since it's on the cover of the book) it's all about a vampiric plague infesting New York.
The novel sees the arrival of a plane in New York City and the efforts by a CDC doctor, a disgraced European professor and assorted others in a race against time to fight the vampire contagion and `The Master'.
That short synopsis is effectively what the book is all about and that would have been enough to snare my attention and make me part with a few Queen's Heads for the book; but the big attraction for me was the author: Guillermo Del Toro, the man behind Mimic, Blade II, Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth. I was later to discover that Del Toro, although lending his name to this novel, submitted a 12 page layout and let co-writer Chuck Hogan do the rest.
However, I have to say, that considering this man put his name to the tome, I was quite disappointed. Allow me to seemingly contradict myself here, please do not doubt I enjoyed this book thoroughly! My problem lies with the fact that given Del Toro is identified as the author, the novel lacks the striking originality of much of his work, in fact, `The Strain' is an incredibly derivative piece of work. Allow me to explain...
Early in the novel, a plane lands at JFK airport in mysterious circumstances carrying a strange cargo; much like the Demeter in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Instead of a Transylvanian Count, we have a Polish nobleman. The Van Helsing of The Strain is a Holocaust survivor and we have a CDC doctor instead of Jonathan Harker.
Many reviewers seem to think that Del Toro was doffing his cap to the horror granddaddy with such references. I did not feel this was the case, given that Del Toro seems to have channeled much of his own pre-existing work into the tale here. The vampires are incredibly similar, if not almost identical to the reapers of Blade II and the vampires eventually nest in the subway tunnels of the city, much like the swarm in Mimic.
I hope that Del Toro will develop this tale significantly in The Fall , the second of this trilogy, but without giving the story away, he has yet again borrowed elements from his own movies that I choose not to reveal for fear of ruining the books for readers of this review.
Again, I feel I have to emphasise that yes, I did enjoy this book! It truly is great fun, ought to easily transfer to the big screen and I have already bought the second of the trilogy but with Del Toro's name attached to it, I expected so much more. I do recommend the first of this trilogy but please, do not read with the expectations of anything more than a horror-action blockbuster type novel, with a screen version that seems to be very much on the cards.